A ban may be imposed on Pakistanis travelling abroad if polio is not eradicated by 2013, Senate’s standing committee on inter-provincial coordination revealed on Friday.
During a meeting of the committee chaired by Senator Farah Aqil, Senator Dr Kareem Khwaja said that, “Keeping in view the perils of polio and the impediments faced by Pakistan to eradicate the disease, the international community is seriously thinking of imposing a lifelong ban on Pakistani travellers if polio was not eliminated by 2013.”
Khwaja further revealed that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has also indicated that if polio inflictions were not curbed by 2013, a travel ban could be placed on Pakistanis. Commuting citizens may have to sport a ‘No Objection Certificate’ along with a polio vaccination certificate to transcend Pakistani borders.
When contacted by The Express Tribune to comment on this development, a WHO spokesperson revealed that there was a proposal in the pipeline to make a polio vaccination certificate issued by the WHO necessary for Pakistanis. However, the spokesperson added that as of yet the proposal had not been processed.
The standing committee made a detailed review of the devolution process, particularly regarding issues of the health department. Awami National Party (ANP)’s Zahid Khan said that the devolution of powers to the provinces, which was initiated under the 18th Amendment stands the risk of being derailed.
Khan, joined by other ANP and MQM members of the committee, said that issues pertaining to health and medicines were getting complicated. He cited an example of the Drug Regulatory Agency, which was initially approved by the special parliamentary committee but was later modified by then health secretary Nargis Sethi without bringing the modification to the committee’s information.
Another issue which was taken up at the meeting was the launch of some vertical programmes including nationwide ones on malaria, tuberculosis, AIDs and hepatitis. The authorities concerned explained that this step was taken after a request by donor and international partners to place a federal mechanism that ensured the continuity of presently approved grant funds in the future.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 21st, 2012.